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Negative Calorie Diet

Definition

The Negative Calorie diet is based on the theory that some foods use more calories to digest than are contained in the foods and that this can be used to produce weight loss.

Origins

The origins of the idea of negative calorie foods are not clear. For many years some people have speculated that if a dieter were to eat foods that were hard for the body to break down, but did not contain very many calories, that it would take more energy for the body to process the food than were acquired through the breakdown of the food.

As of 2007, the Negative Calorie diet is available as an 80 page downloadable e-book from the website www.negativecaloriediet.com. It is put out by The Equilibria Group, and is not available as a traditional book. Dieters must purchase the right to download the book to their personal computer and then can view the book on the computer or print it out if they choose. According to the website the diet has been available since 1997 and has been followed by thousands of dieters around the world.

Description

The Negative Calorie diet is based on the idea that some foods are negative calorie foods. The diet does not claim that the foods actually contain negative calories, instead the idea is that some foods take more calories for the body to process and digest than are contained in the foods themselves.

When a person eats a piece of food the first thing that happens is chewing and this action consumes energy. Foods that are higher in stringy fibers, such as celery, generally require more chewing, and hence more energy expenditure, than other foods such as cake which do not require as much chewing. After chewing, the food is moved down the esophagus and into the stomach, where it begins to be broken down as it mixes with stomach acid. Then it is moved into the small intestine where it is liquefied and absorption into the body begins. Then the mass moves into the large intestine where fluids are absorbed and then the residual mass is excreted.

The Negative Calorie diet believes that this entire process of digestion uses many calories, and so by eating foods that are low in calories, and take longer to digest, the body will actually be using more calories than are taken by processing the foods. The diet claims that these extra calories required for digestion are taken from fat stores in the body, and that the more of these negative calorie foods the dieter eats, the more weight will be lost.

The Negative Calorie diet gives, as an example, the net calorie consumption from eating broccoli. It says that if you eat a serving of 100 grams of broccoli, which contains 25 calories, it will take the body 80 calories worth of energy to digest it. This results in a negative net calorie use of 55 calories which are supposed to be taken from fat stores on the body. As a counter example the diet says that if a dieter eats a piece of cake that contains 400 calories, it will take the

KEY TERMS

Calorie—A measurement of the energy content of food, also known as a large calorie, equal to 1000 scientific calories.

Diabetes mellitus—A condition in which the body either does not make or cannot respond to the hormone insulin. As a result, the body cannot use glucose (sugar). There are two types, type 1 or juvenile onset and type 2 or adult onset.

Dietary supplement—A product, such asa vitamin, mineral, herb, amino acid, or enzyme, that is intended to be consumed in addition to an individual's diet with the expectation that it will improve health.

Mineral—An inorganic substance found in the earth that is necessary in small quantities for the body to maintain a health. Examples: zinc, copper, iron.

Vitamin—A nutrient that the body needs in small amounts to remain healthy but that the body cannot manufacture for itself and must acquire through diet.

body 150 calories to digest it, and the net 250 calories taken into the body will be stored as fat.

The Negative Calorie diet contains more than 100 foods which are considered negative calorie. These are mostly fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber. Some of the vegetables include: asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, chilies, garlic, lettuce, spinach, and zucchini. Some fruits considered negative calorie include: apples, grapefruits, lemons, oranges, and pineapple.

There are 3 diet plans that a dieter can select from, depending on how fast the dieter wants to lose weight. Also provided are a variety of recipes and suggestions for how to continue to include negative calorie foods in the diet once the desired weight loss has been achieved.

The diet says that eating these negative calorie foods can actually increase the body's metabolism. The e-book also includes other suggestions for how the dieter can increase his or her metabolism. One suggestion is breathing better and more deeply. The diet says that this will increase metabolism and let the body rid itself of toxins. The diet also provides a set of exercises. It claims that the three exercises provided will tone 85% of the body's muscles. These exercises are recommended to be done for 15 minutes, three times a week.

Function

The Negative Calorie diet is intended to help dieters lose a lot of weight very quickly. It says that dieters can lose up to 14 pounds in 7 days by following the diet strictly. It also includes exercise recommendations that are intended to help the dieter tone their body. After the dieter has reached their desired weight the Negative Calorie diet suggests that it be repeated as needed to help maintain weight loss. It also says that during this period the negative calorie food should be included into the dieters usual diet to help promote continued health and ensure that the weight is not regained.

Benefits

The Negative Calorie diet claims that dieters can lose up to 14 pounds in 7 days. Although this has not been proven, there are many benefits to a diet that includes many of the foods on the negative calorie list. Eating a diet that includes many different fruits and vegetables will provide a dieter with many vitamins and minerals that are important to good health.

Including many of the foods listed as negative calorie foods may be able to help promote weight loss if part of an otherwise balanced and healthy diet. This is because foods that are low in calories, but full of fiber, can make the dieter feel fuller after eating fewer calories, and because fibrous foods may take longer for the stomach to break down, they may help the dieter to feel full longer. There are many benefits to losing weight if it is done at a moderate pace through healthy eating and increased exercise. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many other diseases and conditions. Losing weight can reduce the risks of these and other obesity-related diseases as well as may be able reduce the severity of the symptoms if the diseases have already occurred.

Risks

There are some risks with any diet, and these risks are often especially great when the diet severely limits the foods that can be eaten. It is often difficult to get enough of some vitamins and minerals when eating a limited variety of foods. The Negative Calorie diet limits the dieter mainly to the list of foods that are believed to be negative calorie. Although these foods are fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of many important vitamins and minerals, they are not enough to maintain good health.

The Negative Calorie diet limits dairy products, as they are not considered to be negative calorie. Because these foods are excellent sources of calcium, it is possible that people who do not eat any of these foods may not get enough calcium in their diet. Lack of calcium can lead to many different disease and conditions such as osteoporosis and rickets. Anyone considering this diet might want to consider taking a supplement or vitamin to help reduce the risk of this and other similar deficiencies.

Protein and fat are also not included in any of the foods that are considered to be negative calorie. Although too much fat in the diet can be harmful, some is required to maintain good health. Protein is also necessary for good health. Not getting enough protein can have many negative effects on the body and people considering this diet should closely monitor their intake to make sure that they are getting enough.

Research and general acceptance

There have been no scientific studies of the Negative Calorie diet. Although it is generally accepted that food does require energy for the body to digest, the amount of energy expended depends very heavily on the body's metabolism, and there is no way for dieters to accurately measure how much energy their body is expending to digest any given food. The diet also claims that these foods will increase the dieter's metabolism, which has not been scientifically proven.

QUESTIONS TO ASK THE DOCTOR

  • Do I have any special dietary needs that this diet might not meet?
  • Is this diet safe for me?
  • Is this diet safe for my entire family?
  • Is it safe for me to follow this diet over a long period of time?
  • Are there any sign or symptoms that might indicate a problem while on this diet?

Following the diet's recommendations for breathing has not been scientifically proven to increase metabolism, or rid the body of toxins.

The United States Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid, the updated version of the Food Guide Pyramid, recommends that healthy adults eat the equivalent of 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day. The Negative Calorie diet would more than adequately meet these requirements for most people because the majority of the foods considered to be negative calorie are vegetables.

MyPyramid recommends that healthy adults eat the equivalent of 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit per day. 1 cup of fruit is equivalent to 1 small apple, 1 large orange, or 1 cup of pineapple cubes. Because these and many other fruits are considered to be negative calorie, it is likely that a person following the negative calorie diet would consume the recommended daily amount of fruit.

The Negative Calorie diet severely limits the intake of dairy products for dieters. Dairy products are generally considered to be part of a healthy diet. MyPyramid recommends the equivalent of 3 cups of low-fat or non-fat dairy per day for healthy adults. Following the Negative Calorie diet would generally not meet this recommendation.

Starches and grains are also severely restricted on the Negative Calorie diet. Whole grains are generally considered a necessary and important part of any healthy diet. MyPyramid recommends that healthy adults eat the equivalent of 3 to 4 ounces of grains each day, of which at least half should be whole grains. The Negative Calorie diet would not generally meet this recommendation.

As of 2007, the Center for Disease Control recommends 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise each day for healthy adults. Because this diet includes exercise recommendations that are only require performing the exercises three times a week, for 15 minutes each workout, following this diet alone without additional exercise does not meet these minimum recommendations. Regular exercise is generally accepted as an excellent way of improving health, reducing the risk of disease, and managing weight.

BOOKS

Shannon, Joyce Brennfleck ed. Diet and Nutrition Source-book. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 2006.

Willis, Alicia P. ed. Diet Therapy Research Trends. New York: Nova Science, 2007.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Dietetic Association. 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995. Telephone: (800) 877-1600. Website: <http://www.eatright.org>

OTHER

“Negative Calorie Diet” The Diet Channel 2007.<http://www.thedietchannel.com/Negative-calorie-diet.htm> (April 6, 2007).

“The Negative Calorie Diet” Get the Skinny on Diets 2007.<http://skinnyondiets.com/TheNegativeCalorieDiet.html> (April 6, 2007).

Negative Calorie Foods and Recipes eBook 2005.<http://www.negativecaloriefoods.com> (April 6, 2007).

Helen M. Davidson


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